It's time to arm yourself with Berocca, aspirin and any other magical hangover cures you might swear by: London Cocktail Week is back, and it's bigger and badder than ever
Published: Monday 26th September 2016
Got plans next week? Cancel them.
Unless, of course, those plans are London Cocktail Week. Yes, it's that time of year again, when all our favourite bars and brands come together for one of the biggest events in the food and drink industry's calendar.
Whether it's DrinkUp.London's cocktail tours or pop-ups from some of the world's most celebrated bartenders, there's a whole host of events going on that celebrate our beloved city's burgeoning drinks scene.
Once you've got your LCW pass – which will set you back a mere £10 – you'll be able to sample a backbar's worth of bespoke, one-off cocktails for £5, and you'll have access to secret, exclusive events, attend masterclasses or learn how to pair your favourite spirits with your favourite foods.
Here's our pick of our favourite goings-on – see you there.
This is the big one: the hub where all the magic happens. London's favourite bars and brands will be popping up in Old Spitalfields Market with their specially created cocktails, available to festival-goers for a bargain £5 with the LCW pass. There'll be everything from espresso martinis to twisted classics, and the week looks set to be one big party. Read on to see our pick of the festivities...
A trip to the World Class House is like falling down the rabbit hole, except this wonderland is fuelled by utterly delicious cocktails concocted by the world's best bartenders. Start by meandering through the Retro and the Future bars on the ground floor and pick up a whiskey sour while you're there – it's served inside two eggshells, because why not? – before heading upstairs, where there are five other experiences awaiting you. There's the Tanqueray No. TEN Future Forest, where you can forage for herbs and botanicals en route to the bar to complement your cocktail, or get stuck into three different takes on the old fashioned in the #LoveScotch lounge area. You'll be spoiled for choice.
When you make gin in the wilds of Islay in Scotland, you get used to a bit of all-weather foraging. And Blixen's getting in on the act this London Cocktail Week, with a cocktail menu made with the Botanist gin and influenced by a foraging expedition the bar's staff attended with the brand, taking them around London to find ingredients to infuse into syrups or cocktails. You can sup on the resultant drinks at Blixen throughout Cocktail Week for £5 each, or, if you really want to get into the spirit of the occasion, you can book a two-hour masterclass with the Botanist's brand ambassador Abigail Clephane in Blixen's leafy garden. Which, in October, will probably feel just like Scotland.
Aside from all the fun to be had, LCW is significant for a couple of other reasons – one of them being celebrating just how awesome our city is for food and drink, with bartenders coming from all over the world to take part in the festivities. A prime example of this is Patrón's Cocktail Lab, which will see seven bartenders from the world's best bars creating cocktails inspired by their cities, with the line up featuring Nathan Shearer of Islington's Callooh Callay; Jose Luis Leon of Limantour in Mexico City; Philip Bischoff of Manhattan in Singapore; Remy Savage of Little Red Door in Paris; Gui Jaroschy from Miami's Broken Shaker and Roberto Berdecia from La Factoria, San Juan. Put it this way: this is a hell of a lot cheaper than travelling round the world to visit these acclaimed bars – so don't miss out.
You've (almost) mastered the art of wine pairing, now it's time to test your whiskey palate – something which is a particular pleasure when it involves getting up close and personal with serves like Buffalo Trace, Weller 12 Year Old and Eagle Rare, all of which come under the umbrella of the Buffalo Trace distillery. These are the whiskeys that barbecue restaurant Barbecoa chose specially when they visited the distilleries last year, and the ones that are being matched with an utterly delicious three-course meal of buffalo hot sauce chicken wings, lamb shoulder and sticky toffee pudding. What's more, you'll also get to choose from one of the new releases of the Antique Collection to take home with you – for those who aren't in the know, the Antique Collections is a set of five whiskeys released by the Buffalo Trace distillery once a year, showcasing it's stable of truly excellent brands. You lucky devils.
If your interest in whisky so far has mainly involved drinking it, now might be the time to broaden your horizons. And there's no better place to do that than in the company of historic Scottish distillery Chivas' experts during a 'Blend' session, where you'll get to grips with blending your own Scotch whisky in Brick Lane's Old Truman Brewery. You'll learn about the heritage, history and origins of single malt and grain whiskies as you taste your way through serves from Speyside, Islay, the Highlands and Lowlands, as well as grain whisky. You'll also learn about the blending process behind Chivas Regal's house style, and you'll even get to take home your own bottle of blended whisky. Aspirin not included.
A perfectly balanced negroni is a beautiful thing: it's refreshing, it opens the palate and it is, quite frankly, delicious. A bad negroni, however, is rubbish. We live in fear of bad negronis. Which is why you'll find us fine-tuning our negroni-making skills at this masterclass with Cocchi, the historic vermouth brand hailing from Turin. It's being hosted by Roberto Bava, the company's owner – who, we'd guess, knows a thing or two about making a damn good drink, and he'll take guests through a tasting of different negroni styles that'll explore how the cocktail has cemented itself as part of the iconic Italian aperitif.
The Woodford Alliance is another series that's merging London's cocktail scene with top international offerings. The small-bourbon brand is partnering with two leading bars, one from our beloved city and one from abroad, each night of LCW to help us experience both without setting foot on a plane, with New York's Suffolk Arms partnering with The Punch Room; Nightjar partnering with Little Quarter; and Peg + Patriot partnering with Amsterdam's The Tailor. Each night there'll be a different vibe and bar menu, with a drinks list featuring two of each bar's most iconic Woodford Reserve drinks, light bites and specially curated playlists.